PRINCETON, NJ -- As he begins promoting his new memoir "Decision Points," former President George W. Bush receives a 44% favorable and 53% unfavorable rating from Americans. This is up slightly from a 40% favorable rating in January 2009 when he left office, but far below the 87% he received in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bush's image in the eyes of Americans has been through sweeping changes over the past 11 years, encompassing one of the largest ranges in favorable ratings in Gallup's history.
Gallup first asked Americans about Bush in February 1999, when he was the governor of Texas and contemplating a run for the presidency. He was well-known even at that point, most likely in large part because of his famous name, and received a largely positive 69% favorable, 12% unfavorable rating.
After the rigors of the presidential campaign, and just before the November 2000 election, Bush's favorable rating fell to 55%. After his controversial and contentious recount battle with Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, Bush's favorable rating increased to 62% in January 2001.
Bush's 87% favorable rating in November 2001 is only one point below the highest favorable rating recorded for any individual since the early 1990s, when Gallup began measuring the public's images of famous people using this format. Golfer Tiger Woods (June 2000) and Bush's first secretary of state, Gen. Colin Powell (September 2002), registered 88% favorable ratings.
Bush's rating drifted down steadily and significantly from 2002 onward, particularly in his second term in office. Bush's lowest favorable rating was 32%, recorded in April 2008, reflecting continuing concerns about the Iraq war and the recessionary economy. This 55-point difference between his personal high and low ties Tiger Woods for the largest such gap Gallup has measured.
As he was leaving office in January 2009, Bush's favorable rating was up slightly to 40%, and hit 45% in July 2010. His latest rating of 44% in the Nov. 4-7 USA Today/Gallup survey is essentially unchanged from the prior measurement.
Bush's immediate predecessor in the White House, Bill Clinton, had a 47% rating in September 2002, at a similar point in his post-presidency career. Perhaps providing some hope for a return to higher ratings for Bush, Clinton's favorables have improved in more recent years, reaching 63% by February 2007 and remaining at a still-high 61% this past summer.
Bush Remains a Highly Polarizing Figure
Bush remains a highly polarizing figure in American society, with an 87% favorable rating among Republicans nationally, and an almost mirror-image 85% unfavorable rating among Democrats. Independents are more negative than positive.
Former President Bush returns to the public stage with a 44% favorable rating -- above his record low of 32% from two years ago, but far below his record high of 87% recorded in November 2001.
Bush has maintained a low-visibility lifestyle in Dallas, Texas, since leaving the White House, giving few interviews and making only the occasional public appearance. Now, the publication of his memoir has required the president to resume a more public existence. In the time-honored tradition of publishers' demands for authors of books that involve multimillion-dollar advances, Bush is making the rounds of high-visibility talk shows, including the "Today Show," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," and is giving extensive newspaper interviews. It remains to be seen how this visibility, plus the impact of the book itself, will affect Bush's image in the eyes of Americans in the weeks and months ahead.
Explore President Obama's approval ratings in depth and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 4-7, 2010, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit https://www.gallup.com/.